OSU Wildfire Study

A new study by Oregon State and Agricultural Research Service scientists, published in Rangeland Ecology & Management, examined whether livestock grazing and virtual fences could be an effective tool for creating these fuel cuts in eating the grass that feeds the fires.

The virtual fence has been around for decades, but in recent years, with advances in satellite, battery and GPS technology, it has gained more attention from the farming community, Bohnert said. It allows ranchers to control the distribution of livestock in range landscapes without physical fences, which are expensive to build and maintain and can also be harmful to wildlife.

In this study, researchers set up a 200-meter-wide by 3-kilometer-long fuel cut in an approximately 1,000-acre pasture in OSU’s Northern Great Basin Experimental Range, about 35 miles east. west of Burns in southeastern Oregon. The fuel rupture area was delimited by a series of four virtual fences, each 35 meters apart.

In June 2021, 16 cows and 23 cow/calf pairs were placed in the fuel cut-off area with multiple water sources inside. All of the cows, but not the calves, were fitted with virtual fence collars that use GPS positioning to contain them within the limits of the fuel cut and record their locations every five minutes. After 30 days, the cows were removed.


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